Friday, May 30, 2014

Twelve Days in Doha: Adventure and Hot

silver and gold hangin' out in Doha
It's been a particularly warm May week in Doha with unseasonable temps exceeding 115F. Air like this translates to sweat drenched tee shirts, soggy undies, fogged glasses, beaded skin and high ponytails over rash prickled necks - before 9am.
West Bay skyline at night from our pool deck - not in the sun in Doha
Hot like this means a bright, yellow fireball halfway to the sky by 4am, burning sand, blazing sun, indoor activities and afternoon naps. Still, creative, dedicated gadabouts may find one or two interesting ways to entertain themselves. Like for example:
father/daughter shopping time
Wander shaded souk alleyways, bargain with shopkeepers and dig into stacks of plastic wrapped Pashminas as the bracelet maker melts colored blocks of wax; tour the gold/fabric/spice souks for jewelry, baskets, pans, dishes, tea and coffee sets, candy, jelabia, abaya, keffiya (deep breath) and more…
bargaining with the basket guy
Chat with camels beside a forever-under-renovation downtown fort, below a never ending line of sky infesting construction cranes, near a job site office full of interesting people from all over the world, especially Missouri…
some of the best buncha people ever
(missing Ben, Aaron, Tom-on vacay and Ed-who'd stepped away)
Eat, drink, cook, eat, read, wash dishes, eat, do laundry, eat, eat, eat.
"family room" at the shwarma place
Visit museums like the one dedicated to Mshiereb's Heart of Doha downtown renovation project (ie, our reason for being here), located on a barge docked along a tree and flower lined Corniche; view videos, pearl diving memorabilia and historical photos and a model of the gargantuan endeavor…
one of three fabulous works of art, created by Bob and Cindi
(genetics underwritten by Charlie and Peggy and Dan and Kitty)
Tour IM Pei's famous Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) to see cool stuff from the Middle East and beyond…
Kings and Pawns: Board Games from India to Spain
now at Doha's Museum of Islamic Art
See Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani's popular private collection of historic Qatari memorabilia and eclectic wonderment (click here to read more about the museum), including cars, planes, boats, tapestries, carpets, tents, a real well, swords, knives, photographs, paintings, doors, walls, Catholic vestments, a full sized confessional booth; and where an artist will ink your name in Arabic calligraphy for 10QR (about $2.50USD).
Mohammed animates Kimberly's name
The pyramid shaped Sheraton hotel is closed for remodeling but there are still skylines, Doha Bay dhows, Palm Tree Island, the Singing Dunes. There's beach day at 8:00am, sun kissed skin, salty seas, crossword puzzles. Katara's amphitheater, private art galleries, cart riding and cupcake eating in a cupcake shaped chair wearing let's-do-tea hats and skirts.
I like her
Indoor and outdoor pools, mani/pedis, Ferrari and Lamborghini; the Pearl, camel race track laps inside an air conditioned SUV, Our Lady of the Rosary Church outdoor grotto, stray cats, waterfalls, candles, prayer and wudu spaces, selfies.
in a bathroom at Sheikh Faisal's place
Tea in a Qatari home with sisters, cousins, nieces, new friends and Yemeni neighbors. Zubarah fort, sweaty desert treks, an archaeological site, artifact exhibit, sand and rock vistas, ancient walls, watch towers.
watch tower is coated with a light layer of concrete
as protection from sand and wind
Fanar, Shaheen's, Starbucks Frappuccino's, shwarma, tabbouleh, hummus, jasmine tea, Arabic coffee, food sharing at Turkey Central, lunch in a window-less backroom, waiting on Bob.
architectural demonstration: laying down the law, negotiation
Lessons in Islamic prayer and fasting during Ramadan in a Qatari home majlis surrounded by Qatari ladies and women from all over the world. Abayas, sheylas and the Ibn Abdul Wahhab Masjid - Doha's Grand Mosque.
inside the Ibn Abdul Wahhab Masjid, Doha's Grand Mosque
Because, after all, psshhhh, really, c'mon: what's a bit of blazing sky, sauna air, shimmering horizon and searing, scalding, burning sun when there's adventure to be lived?

"…Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance: I hope you dance…"
- from "I Hope You Dance" written by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers
popularly performed by Lee Ann Womack

Friday, May 23, 2014

Middle Eastern Mother-in-Law

"You should throw her from the plane."
-Middle Eastern woman joking about a mother in law's visit
"I must cover at home to respect my mother in law."
-Asian Muslim woman married to a Middle Eastern man
"I'm not allowed to do any of the cooking because my mother in law doesn't like it."
-Asian Muslim woman married to a Middle Eastern man, lives in her mother-in-law's home
"All of the first daughters in my family are named after my mother-in-law."
-Qatari woman
"HOWARD! I need to pee!"
-Big Bang Theory's Mrs. Wolowitz calling to her son
Mothers and Mothers-in-Law: Peggy, Cindi, Kitty
twenty-nine years of successful family and relationship building
I'm lucky. I have a great mom and mom-in-law (MIL) who paved the way for their children to create strong families by example: supporting fledgling son- and daughter-in-laws, encouraging independence, loving, lifting, inspiring - and breaking down stereotypes.
my beautiful mom, Peggy S. Hedrick: smart, fabulous, kind, generous, wife/mom/MIL and lawyer, married 59 years to my dad: builds and supports, lifts and encourages, no stereotype
Learn more about this amazing woman at:
You know the stereotype I'm talking about: the classic Western MIL: her mother. The jealous, self-centered shrew who wedges her way between the young couple in a passive aggressive battle for her daughter's (and grandchildren's) affections. Who locks out the less powerful his mother lower-case mil and undermines the youthful pair's bond through manipulation of the mother-daughter relationship - even as she breezes through husbands in her own world.
In dating, marriage and life, the woman controls the children, supplies the family's energy or lack of it, coordinates structure (or lack of it), nurtures a foundation or opens the door to quicksand. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
Thus, in the West, at least - if Mama's Mama ain't happy - and especially if she's selfish, cruel, mean and unstable - everything else just got a whole lot harder.
Kimberly with her Grams, Kitty Kennaley - mom of 8, kind and loving MIL to many,
married 52 years to Dan, no stereotype
In the East, as in traditional Qatari culture, his mother is boss.
Traditionally, a Qatari bride is expected to leave her home to become part of her husband's family. Newlyweds spend their wedding night - and the first few weeks of marriage - living in a room or suite of rooms in the groom's family home. Modern Qataris sometimes live separate from the family, but, I am told, most eventually occupy a villa within the walled compound that provides living quarters for hubby's parents, brothers, unmarried sisters, cousins, uncles and their families.
"We like houses."
-Qatari woman explaining why locals don't live in apartments.
This isn't specifically a Qatari, Middle Eastern or Muslim idea - although all mothers are revered in Islam. It's more of an Eastern World thing.
In her rooms the young bride is Queen of her universe. Within the larger home and family his mother rules.
The arrangement makes sense in this part of the world as a family's social security is locked up in its sons: the responsibility for caring for mom and dad falls to the first born son (and, it follows, his wife). If boy #1 is unable to care for mom and/or dad, he may pass responsibility on to the next son. A married woman is not (officially) liable for the long term welfare of her own parents (
When a daughter in law moves into his mother's home, her job is to do what his mother wants in the way she wants it done: cooking, not cooking, wearing an abaya to run to the bathroom and back.
In the East as in the West, most husbands don't care how the kitchen gets cleaned or who's cooking dinner (or picking it up). Typically there's no power struggle between husbands and wives over who changes baby's diaper (unless nobody's doing it) or decides who's invited to what, when or how. This is because (generally speaking, arguably, in many successful families) the woman does these things - or supervises husband's, maid's or nanny's completion of said activity.
In the West, as newly marrieds do not typically live with their parents, a man may not notice there's a classic MIL in place (even if his mother tries to point it out). He's blissfully unaware right up to the minute divorce papers are served…and sometimes beyond.
In the East, where Queens are domestically merged, there is friction and most people are quite aware of it. Which is why even the best Middle Eastern mother-in-law inherits (along with the subordinate Queen) a bad rep.
serving dinner to my great, loveable, wonderful MIL
My husband and I lived with his family for a short period, Middle Eastern style. We had a private room, bathroom and living area with tv. Our baby slept in a crib by our bed. The baby monitor (a device that transmits sound) sat on our night stand while the receiving end was in the kitchen where communal life happened.
My beautiful MIL cheerfully offered advice without taking over and let me make mistakes without recrimination. She welcomed my mother, with whom I am very close. When my tiny baby needed surgery, she took me to the doctor's office and held my hand while I cried. She was then, and is now - awesome.
hanging at The Pearl's little beach with Kimber and Kitty
For the next two weeks my wonderful MIL is living and playing with us in Doha. We'll buy her stuff, take her places, love and serve her and treat her like a Queen. Not because she's in the Middle East where his mother rules. But because she's FANTASTIC.
Kitty Kennaley, now in Doha

Friday, May 16, 2014

Why I'm Not Posting a Blog Today: New York Edition

photo credit: Lois Kathryn (Kay) Hedrick, Realtor

Introducing Lois Kathryn (Katie) Kennaley, Bachelor/Masters of Science, Dietetics:

beautiful Lois Kathryn (Katie) Kennaley
prepares to be hooded
Katie graduates from D'Youville College in Buffalo, New York this week after which time she'll study for, take and pass her registration exam and begin job hunting in earnest. We're happy to be present for the big event and much too busy visiting Niagara Falls, shopping at Target, jogging in the puddly-muddly street wearing shorts, eating, drinking and generally being merry to post a blog!
Katie's proud family (us) travelled from all over the world to beautifully green, heavily treed, dogwood and cherry blossom (or something like it) sweet, rainy, refreshingly cold Buffalo, New York to welcome Katie to her next life.
Chris attends a graduation event via photo
To read Katie's resume and learn more about her professional experience in Dietetics, health and nutrition, and maybe consider her for a job in your fine establishment, click here: We're so very proud of Katie and her many accomplishments!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Man of Steel, Qatar

East-West/West-East by Richard Serra
"…he did not simply set an artwork in a landscape but rather took account of a natural but structured space, paying exact attention to the scale of his addition to it…"
-Qatar Museums Authority brochure
You wander the desert, the sun heavy on your head. All around you is an endless field of earth and sky marching toward a horizon marked by strange mesa shaped sand and rock formations.
There is color in these mini mountains: reds, yellows and chocolate hued rock bits shaped like burned charcoal. The sand is velvet soft, light and easily carried by the wind. It collects in your ears, fills wrinkles, sneaks into your socks. Sweaty, gritty toes rub against one another and blister.
You climb a limestone plateau. Shoes disappear into the soft sand. The top of the mesa is flat, speckled with pockets of low lying green. You can see for miles in every direction.
Bob atop a limestone plateau
At one end, blue variegates from nearly white around the sun to icy blue at the place where sky meets sea. You look inland toward tiny, barely discernable bumps along the horizon that signal the village of Zekrit. Another direction reveals miles of desert brown fading into the dome above you.
At the final turn a dark thread rises out of the earth, streams heavenward. You slide down the mesa and aim that direction. The unfettered sun boils your skin, burns your eyes. You raise your arms and unsettled air shimmers in the textured atmosphere.
steel plate appears threadlike from the side

Yeah, it's hot. And there are no - none - trees. C'mon, what did you expect? You're doing walkabout in a (nearly) equatorial desert.
desert green
You slog toward the dark line and it seems to change: at first reed thin, it widens, opens, closes, flattens, at one point appears almost round.
But wait - you must be hallucinating. Two shapes, now three - is that a fourth peeking over the horizon?
You alter your approach and see that the forms are rectangular steel plates, one end buried in the sloping desert between two limestone plateau ranges. Each plate measures 4 meters by 13.5 cm. Two rise 14.7 meters into the burning, unforgiving sky while the other two soar 16.7 meters high. Due to the uneven topography each plate stands exactly the same height as the others and the surrounding mountains too. Face the end of a pillar and it's a piece of copper colored straw. Stand directly in front and the plate is wide and flat and the others disappear behind it. As you step to one side or the other, the pillars open like folds in a fan.
four plates, one car
The plates are a sculpture called East-West/West-East by artist and world renowned Man of Steel Richard Serra. The artist also created "7" - a vertical permanent structure set on a pier behind Doha's Museum of Islamic Art. Additional works are currently on exhibit at Katara and Alriwaq at MIA Park in Doha. (To learn more about Richard Serra and his work, click here:
Bob and 4 plates
A streak of rust mars the front and back of each evenly spaced pillar. Sun reflects off the steel, absorbs and transmits heat as it delineates distance in the endless field of rock and sand. On approach, just two plates are visible. Even though plates are the same height as the mountains that flank them they seem to roll up and fall back as you move forward.
"…it only takes on its full meaning when we walk its length and grasp its relationship to its site…"
You walk the length of the exhibit, taking in the expanse of burning sand, basking in the dome of blue above and field of brown at your feet. You consider each towering copper hued structure, careful not to stand too close lest you absorb your limit of hot.
limestone plateaus
You wonder at the enormity of the project and marvel at the curiosity of four steel plates marching across the desert outback like giant rectangular Bedouins.
Finally, after a long drive, strenuous climb and sweaty wander, you shield your eyes and search the horizon. There are no "facilities" in wilderness galleries. Just sand, sky, rock, the stray shrub. You know: nature.

And - at this end of the desert, at least - steel.
East-West/West-East is located in the Brouq Nature Reserve on Qatar's thumb - a desert peninsula outside Zekrit along the country's Eastern coast. Take the Dukhan Road, exit toward Zekrit. Pass the Cuban Hospital, beyond the billowing oil wells and wind surfers…follow the road until it ends at the tiny beachside town. Now turn right and drive into the desert. Keep going until you see threads rising into the sky.
GPS Coordinates: N25°31.019'E050°51.948.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Why I love Arabic

study time
First it was me and the girls from the 5A class, chatting in the hall. The Turkish student didn't speak English so conversation was necessarily in Arabic.
Where are you from? How long have you studied Arabic? How many children do you have? How old are you? What languages do you speak?
Then class, as always, conducted in a rapid fire mix of classical Arabic with a side of Egyptian dialect, garnished in English (but only when absolutely necessary).
And finally, the ladies:
Wahashteenee! I've missed you! How is your health? How is your family? When is your baby due? (Not mine.) Where will you travel this summer? When will you be back?
The Sudanese jewel was a teacher in her country but stays home now. The Moroccan is expecting twins. The Kenyan's first language is English but she learned Arabic in Mombasa where a dialect is spoken. The young girl from Nepal is learning Arabic like me.
I ping ponged through the building, collecting hugs and kisses, laughter, words. One young mother liked my Arabic children's books. A ten year old is learning Arabic in English at her French school. There was talk, reading, writing, explanations, diagrams, corrections and fun.
With a limited vocabulary spanning a narrow range of subjects, I float in a sea of sound in search of the island of understanding. When opportunity for conversation meets a day my brain is (more or less) tuned in, I'm reminded of the many reasons why I love Arabic. Here are a few:

Interesting display near the Convention Center

God is part of everything. When I expressed joy over a friend's pregnancy, she hesitated then said, like a mother telling her child to remember to eat his peas: "say ma sha' allah" (what God wills).

Hospitality is so deeply engrained in the language that it overflows into culture: a greeting must be returned in the same or bigger manner. Kind words are a gift. A smile is a form of charity. The most difficult subject gets an alhum du il allah (praise to God).

There's music in the alphabet: the hissing cat (khal), long breath (Haa), gargle ('ein), growl (ghein), pause (hamza), open throat sigh (Saad), hollow dee (Daad). Sounds mix, flow, surge, rest. One word may mean many different things and an altered tone or pitch, length, vowel choice or the placement of the word or sound in a sentence can change the essence of an interaction.

the chameleon "jeem"
makes a different sound depending upon where the speaker is from
I like that differentiation in order or pronunciation is generally chalked up to dialect (and not a slow brain). And that if I talk for more than a minute, someone always, always asks: are you from Egypt?
Qataris cheerfully break speech speed records but Egyptians talk slow and easy. A Syrian can say the exact same thing and I don't understand at all (to my ear it's like the difference between American English and whatever it is Australians speak).
Innumerable dialects add confusion and misunderstanding but also multiply, divide and grow nuance, beauty, mystery, magic, music.
I like the way comprehension doesn't come from a single word but a combination of meaning, form and intonation. And that understanding happens in waves that stream over you like a warm summer breeze. "You must feel the language," says my teacher.
I'm a grammar geek, so I love that there are countless rules and word groups. For example, "kanna and her sisters" and "inna and her sisters" affect sentences in opposite ways. And you only add alef to tanween when it comes with fatha but not if there's an alef lam. I like searching text for mafgool bihee and mansoob and the many different forms of fael. And how Sifa the describer must match moosouf the described in gender, markings, number, grammar. And that majroor follows harf il jar the preposition which predictably - in a seeming morass of unstructured structure - calls for kessra.
And I like that that none of this - none of it - matters once you start talking.
But among the most important reasons I enjoy Arabic: I like the ladies.
for special occasions

The woman in abaya and sheer red and yellow hijab sat in an empty classroom, Arabic Koran and notebook open before her. Sabah al kheer, I said. Good morning.
She blinked.
Kayf ilhal? I said. Izzayik? Chismich? Hatha ghorfa f-ay mostawa? How are you? What's your name? Which class is this?
In a lilting Indian accent, she replied in English. "No, no. I'm in the Islam class, so I only read Arabic. I don't know what the words mean." She took my level 4B Arabic book, slid a finger below individual words as a Kindergartner recites from a primer.
"You see? I can read." She shook her head. "But no meaning. Yet."
Ahhh. Her fun is just beginning.